A ‘milestone’ in Burgess Hill’s development saw plans for a new cinema, flats, hotel and shops approved today.
New River Retail’s £70m proposals for The Martlets Shopping Centre were unanimously approved by Mid Sussex District Council’s District Planning Committee.
However residents raised concerns over the loss of Martlets Hall without a replacement community facility, while the company managing the neighbouring Market Place Shopping Centre questioned elements of the design of the scheme.
Andrew Barrett-Miles, speaking on behalf of Burgess Hill Town Council, said: “This is a milestone in the development of Burgess Hill. It’s a very important day.”
He described this as the first of several major projects in the area, the rest being new science and business parks off the A2300 and redevelopment of the various quarters in the town.
He added: “Refusal of this particular application will I think stall a lot of the future work and future development of the town so this is hugely important.”
The development includes a 10-screen Cineworld, 63-bed Travelodge, 142 flats, a modern library, and an extra 50,000 square feet of retail space.
Meanwhile the property director of New River Retail added: “Major and national retailers and leisure operators are willing to invest in Burgess Hill town centre to create greater choice for the people of Burgess Hill and delivering vital jobs.”
The company acquired the Martlets in 2010 and is the third largest owner of shopping centres in the country with 132 million customers served every year across their 32 locations.
Peter Mitchell said: “Demolishing our Martlets Hall, the heart of Burgess Hill will be torn out and the vitality of our community dies.”
Fellow objector Robert Eggleston pointed to 13 examples in the officers’ report where the scheme did not comply with council policy, and asked why the developer was due to make a 16 per cent profit without Burgess Hill getting its ‘fair share’ of community benefits.
Local ward member Richard Cherry (Con, Burgess Hill - Meeds) said he shared the angst and concerns of his fellow residents over the loss of Marlets Hall, and while regrettable he welcomed the investment in the town centre.
Meanwhile Anne Jones (Con, Burgess Hill - Meeds) said it might be unpopular with some, but on balance she supported ‘this fine development’.
During the committee meeting concerns were raised over possible wind tunnelling effects and a lack of any new public toilets.
Jacqui Landriani (Con, Burgess Hill - Dunstall) asked if a community scheme would actually work and if retailers would allow non-customers to use their facilities, while Phillip Coote (Con, Crawley Down and Turners Hill) described how he had worked on a project that had not addressed wind tunnelling and required expensive works to rectify once completed.
Peter Martin (Con, Hassocks) said: “It’s not a perfect scheme but it’s a damn sight better than many towns get offered.”
Ginny Heard (Con, Burgess Hill - Franklands) added: “It does not deliver everything we want but Burgess Hill is desperate for this redevelopment upgrade.
“To turn down this opportunity and walk away would be a sad day for Burgess Hill.”
Bob Maidstone (Con, East Grinstead - Imberhorne) added: “This is an amazing opportunity. We have waited so long for an application to come through.”
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